Monday, 4 July 2016

Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #004 -- Mr. Desmond Wong

Desmond with his Tesla Model S 70

It takes a lot of enthusiasm to be socialising with and answering questions from hundreds of EV owners on multiple instant messenger apps.  Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #004 has Mr. Desmond Wong, a "non-Rich Man" who owns a "not-a-toy" Tesla Model S.

Here's our interview below:

Locky Law (LL): For today's interview, I have invited Mr. Desmond Wong, an EV and EV groups enthusiast who has devoted his time in sharing knowledge to literally hundreds of EV owners through the internet. Welcome Desmond!

Desmond Wong (DW): Thanks Locky for inviting me to talk about EV and myself.

LL: Could you please tell us something about yourself, your family and your car?

DW: I'm a probationary licence holder (P driver) and a rare weekend driver, whereas my wife Kristy Ho is the one who drives our Tesla Model S 70kWh to work as we live in the New Territories. Originally I'm supposed to be the owner of this dream car in order to celebrate my "late success" but unfortunately I failed to get insured last year, but I'm happy to know that some P driver succeeded in getting insured recently.

LL: Is your Tesla Model S your very first car?

DW: Before Tesla, my wife tried a few ICE of different sizes starting from the smallest Smartfortwo followed by BMW and Camry.  Honestly I'm not an environmentalist and seldom think about air pollution issue caused by ICE.  The choice of EV or Tesla was not driven by environmental concern but a desire for a special car.  It was only until my white Tesla got layer of dust on the edge of the trunk after a highway drive then I realised that the pollution from exhaust emission from ICE is no difference from the smoking hazard.

LL: But there are some views in Hong Kong saying that EVs, and particularly a Tesla one, are just "Rich Man's Toys".

DW: To me EV or Tesla is not a rich-boy toy for showing off but a car with excellent safety measures for new driver like me which cuts expenditure on fuel for my wife who drives daily. That's why we chose Tesla without hesitation, it was just a 2-hour decision). I understand that there have been a few interviews of members who are businessmen, professionals, car experts and environmentalists, it could be interesting to have a voice from a different angle and I think I could be one of those representing the ordinary working class.

LL: Talking about safety features, the Transport Department of Hong Kong has recently approved Autosteer and Auto Lane Change of the Autopilot driver-assistance package. And from our previous conversation, I know that you have not yet included this package in your car. May I know why you haven't chosen that yet?

DW: At that time, it looked to me that the government would unlikely approve the function so I adopted a wait-and-see approach, which turned out to be a wrong guess.  I would purchase the feature when summon function is available as I believe that parking a sizeable EV is a challenging task in certain parking areas.

LL: Now, Tesla Model 3 prototype has just been unveiled a few days ago on 1st April, what are you views on this affordable EV, and how would you compare this with your Tesla Model S?

DW: Based on my limited experience with Tesla and technology, I would tend to think that the later the better and cheaper.  In other words, an EV with enhanced features targeting at a wider scope of car owners is always possible.  While Model 3 or EV of any other brands could be priced at a more affordable level, the charging facilities have to be substantially enhanced before EV can become a major trend in Hong Kong.  Compared to Model S, Model 3 is a smaller sedan with a refreshing interior design and panoramic roof; however, I do not lose my strong liking to Model S in particular in areas like its range and speed.

LL: Would you consider switching to the Model 3?

DW: I will consider switching to Model 3 by exercising the Resale Value Guarantee (RVG) of Model S when the uncertainty from both the First Registration Tax (FRT) and the charging issue is cleared.

LL: That's great, because that takes us to my next question. As a "non-Rich Man", what do you think about the EV development in Hong Kong?

DW: EV is still at a very preliminary journey and the governmental EV policy still has a lot to emerge and enhance.  If there could be a behavioural change of car owners through extensive education, which is supported by a revolutionary EV policy change such as to increase the charging facility coverage and charging efficiency at each carpark, I would feel more optimistic about the EV development in Hong Kong.  Kindly note that promoting EV is an even harder war than anti-smoking as 99% of existing cars are ICE of which the owners may have hesitation or misunderstanding on EV.  Apart from the charging issue, EV maintenance could be another focus that we would be concerned about.  Lowering the maintenance costs and time could be an encouraging factor to attract more EV.


LL: One key hindrance that has been dragging the heels of EV growth in Hong Kong is the inadequacy of charging stations as well as their availability. Given that some charging stations are occupied by ICE at various times of the day, do you have a suggestions for prospective and new EV owners on this?

DW: In the absence of any EV-friendly charging policy or related legislation, a charging spot located at parking space in general is not reserved solely for charging by EV; in other words, ICE or EV can park there without charging.  Under this situation, building a few slow charging spots may not be meaningful.  The government, carpark management, and EV charging providers should aim at providing substantial high-speed charging facilities possibly at each spot such that EV can charge whenever there is vacant lot without the need to reserve any parking spots to EV.  Also, carpark management or EV charging providers should also establish charging spot policy.  On the other hand, EV owners should be educated on the appropriate use of charging spots and discouraged (by clamping or warning notice) for overcharging or parking without charging.

LL: Are you having any difficulties in charging your car then?

DW: Yes, I am one of those unfortunate owners who do not have any home or office chargers and need to rely on SC or CHAdeMO chargers.  Situation gets worse recently due to the enormous increase in new EV numbers.  The upsetting charging experience can really deter people from making the change to EV.  I really hope that the government and Tesla should think about solutions and act quickly before the issue becomes lethal which could put a stop at the EV growth.

LL:  Finally, what other things you find worthwhile to share with us about EV?

DW: Thanks to the small population of EV users who are arguably guinea pigs to the new EV technology, we can form a very united group in which people are willing to help and share ideas or information in either the chat groups or through meeting each other at charging spots.  Also, I got to know a team of EV enthusiasts from Charged Hong Kong who dedicate their own private time to promote EV and meet with various stakeholders in the fight for EV development.  This is really impressive which definitely motivates people to step up and strive for the common goal, that is to protect our precious environment by encouraging people to switch from ICE to EV.

LL: That's excellent, thank you Desmond for your time taking this interview! If anyone wants to chat with you online, where can they find you?

DW: My pleasure indeed to talk to you Locky and everyone who cares about the EV development.  There are Tesla chat groups on Naver LINE app called "Tesla LINE" and under Telegram app named "Tesla HK 車主討論會".   Feel free to jot down any questions or useful information and a lot of EV enthusiasts will certainly give you helpful and quick responses.